Solomons dolphin slaughter expected to hit tourist numbers | Asia Pacific

Solomons dolphin slaughter expected to hit tourist numbers

Solomons dolphin slaughter expected to hit tourist numbers

Updated 30 January 2013, 21:38 AEDT

The campaign against the resumption of a traditional dolphin slaughter in the Solomon Islands has hit the world wide web.

Fanalei Village in Malaita has so far killed at least one thousand dolphins, in retaliation it claims at the non payment of funds provided by a US conservation group to forego the annual kill.

The agreement between three villages on Malaita and the Earth Island Institute was put in place three years.

But Fanalei says the institute has not paid them what it is owed, and until it gets its money it will continue killing dolphins.

In response the institute says it has provided the money as agreed, but the villages' representatives in the capital Honiara have kept it and not passed it back to the village as was promised.

Now Facebook is being used to tell potential tourist about what is happening, and tourism operators on the island nation expect the kill will affect visitor numbers.

Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney reports.

Correspondent: Campbell Cooney

Speaker: Michael Tokuru, Solomon Islands' Visitor's Bureau, Danny Kennedy, Gizo Dive in the Western Province

Environment:Endangered and Protected Species

COONEY: While the people of the Fanalei Village are pledging to continue to slaughter dolphins if the Earth Island Institute doesn't pay what they they claim they are owed, the resumption of killing has started to attract the attention of the last people many in Solomons' want offside, those potential tourists prepared to part with a lot of money to travel there.

The General Manager of the Solomon Islands' Visitor's Bureau Michael Tokuru is one of those that's worried.

TOKURU: We want to promote ourselves at eco-tourism. This nation and our country just came back from the problems with regards to recent or previous ethnic crises and there's so many things that we need to develop and put our image back to the fold, especially when we just held this Festival of Arts, hosted the Festival of Arts last year and also the Royal couple visit last year. I have no doubt in my mind that there will be some impact with regards to our image. I will comfortably say that yes, it will have some negative impact.

COONEY: Danny Kennedy runs Gizo Dive in the Western Province.

It might be at the other end of the Solomons's group of islands, from Malaita, but he believes the kill underway there will affect visitor numbers.

KENNEDY: Well, I'm sure it certainly will overall, but unfortunately these sorts of thing happen on a cultural level and happen in these very, very remote areas which unfortunately the tourism industry is always the one that are targeted, but we can probably do the least amount of damage control in regards to what they're doing on Malaita.

COONEY: The continuing slaughter is also making an impact on Social networks.

Facebook is being used to spread the word to the world, about what's happening in a remote part of the Pacific.

Mr Tokuru says that's isn't being ignored, although he doubts it alone will turn visitors away.

TOKURU: We took note of the concern raised. They are very genuine, many of them are genuine, some of them are rubbish. What we'll do is as we will see what happen next, but I'm not, but I do not believe that the exchange on Facebook will bring down our tourism numbers here.

COONEY: Tourism in Solomon Islands has also been a niche market, often based on the diving available around the wrecks and aircraft left behind after World War Two, and the visitors to those former battlefields are also part of the market.

But Mr Kennedy believes successive government have done little to help its growth, and he doesn't think much will change this time either.

KENNEDY: I've been here for 28 years as an operator and in my own personal view, tourism has never really been actually high on the agenda or looked into as an alternative to any other sort of foreign income earner. So if it does start to affect us, to be honest, I don't think anyone within government would really, really care that much. I mean people will become more and more disgusted when they realise what's happening.

COONEY: So far there has been comment or response from the Solomon's government or any of the ministries which the slaughter impacts on.

Michael Tokuru says they it is aware of the issue.

TOKURU: This is a complex matter and I must say that the government has to step in and raise this issue.

COONEY: But Danny Kennedy believes the government authorities have missed their chance.

KENNEDY: I think now that the first wave has taken place on Malaita, I really felt like they probably maybe should have sent a small little task force, a group over there to try and negotiate with the people, to try to resolve the issue. It's like a typical over-reaction to the as conservation that I believe Earth Island Institute was trying to implement. So it's like, OK, yeah, we'll teach you a lesson, but in the end, as I said, it's not helping anybody.

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